Cleared For Take Off

Sitting at work this morning, this appeared in my inbox with the subject line ‘Cleared for Take Off’.

take off

What would happen if you stopped?

Maybe you could try again tomorrow. Maybe tomorrow it won’t hurt so bad.

So what if you just — stopped?

It’s a damn shame, you’ll never know.


With the Wintergreen Spartan Super only 4 days away, its becoming too real. We’re about to be cleared for takeoff and I certainly hope we are unstoppable.

I spent hours this weekend re-reading some of the blog race reviews about the previous Wintergreen Spartan races.

On My Way to Sparta – “They said it was the toughest Super ever.  They said it was the most difficult Spartan Race by the mile ever.  They said this was a pre-cursor to the Vermont Beast.  Who is this “they” that I speak of.  Everyone.  Literally.  Yes, I mean the correct definition of ‘literally’.  Elite racers, open racers, Spartan staff, Hobie Call, & me.  It is unanimous that this one was a different sort of animal than we were all accustomed to.   8+ miles of almost constant incline/decline racing.  8,000 feet of elevation change.  As hard as the treks up the mountains on Wintergreen Resort were, the descents were just as knee-shatteringly difficult. ”


For the Love of Life– “This course is NOT like the others. According to Spartan organizers, this race is one of the Top 3 MOST DIFFICULT races out of ALL the Spartan courses — and that includes all the Beast races,which are 4-5 miles longer…Would I ever do the VA Spartan Super again? Proabably not. Would I do another Spartan Race? Absolutely.”

Through my post-race research, I came across several blogs with much the same thing to say. Below are some interesting excerpts, basically mirroring my thoughts exactly:

  • “It was impossible to run up and down the hills, because they were so steep. I saw one man attempt to run up one of the earlier, steeper hills. He did not make it… Unless you wanted to end up on your ass, running down was not an option either. This wasn’t a run. It was a hike.” ~ Melanie Versaw, Mel in Motion
  • Only two words come to mind when I think back on the Super Spartan Virgina/Mid Atlantic Race:Brutal and Epic. ~Lindsay McGill, Turbo Linds Fitness
  • “When I tell you that this was the most difficult Spartan Race courses that I have ever done, I’m not exaggerating, the overall consensus from everyone I talked to, Elites, Pro Athletes, even Hobie Call was surprised at the technicality of this course. This course had to be one of the most treacherous, dangerous, and intimidating courses to date. ~ Anthony Matesi, Legends of The Death Race
  • It was an atypical Spartan Race in that there were few stretches other than the downhills in which you really felt like you were racing with intensity.” ~ Jeff Cain, On My Way to Sparta

The Painted Warrior– Provided very thorough analysis of the obstacles and their surrounding terrain.

After reading all of these blogs and race reviews from Elite Spartan Athletes, I want to hurl.  My stomach is in a knot, my nerves are shot, and my mind is racing.

Will I be one of the DNFs? Will I get hurt? Should I bring a Hydration Pack? Is our finish time goal even reasonable? Will my legs cramp and knot up? What obstacles will be there again and which will be new? Should I wear calf compression sleeves or full length compression pants? How many energy GU’s should I pack? WHAT WAS I THINKING WHEN I SIGNED UP FOR THIS?!

I began looking at last year’s course map.


I ordered a pair of full length compression pants and a smaller hydration pack, to keep my options open.

Not knowing what taste and consistency I will be in the mood for or in need of on Saturday, I got a variety of Energy GU, shots, electrolyte tablets and Protein bars.


I have been making a conscious effort to drink an ungodly amount of water (even more so than normal) and Powerade Zero, to ensure I stay hydrated this week.

Rather then long runs and heavy lifting the week leading up to the race, I’ve been focusing on walking and jogging serious incline in the shoes I will be wearing (Reebok Women’s All-Terrain Super Running Shoe).


Also, I have really been focusing on stretching, especially my legs, hips and back, using my foam roller and stretch strap to get deeper stretches. In addition to normal foam rolling and stretching, I have been doing yoga daily, either in the mornings or evenings.

Let me step back and say, I have NEVER been a fan of yoga. I’m terrible at relaxing, I’m far from flexible, I start shaking and forget to breathe. However, not only has it helped tremendously with muscle soreness and tightness, but it has done wonders for helping me learn to “shut my mind off,” relax, and ease my stress and anxiety. My step mom is a yoga instructor and has slowly but surely helped me learn to like it, by showing me modifications and various techniques to help me focus on my breathing and relaxation.

I was given this set of Yoga DVD’s for Christmas and I LOVE them! It has 3 DVDs: AM/PM Yoga Routines, Essential Yoga for Stress Relief, and Yoga for Inflexible People.  I LOVE it.  There are over 40 routines ranging in time from 10 minutes to 45 minutes.  You can pick which best suites your needs.  Breathing techniques. Lower Back. Neck and shoulder tightness. Muscle Tension. Energy Booster. You name it. Notice I still use blocks and straps as needed, but this ‘mindless me time’ has become something I look forward to each day, rather than dread, and I no longer cringe when I hear the word yoga spoken.

Check it out!

So overall, this week’s plan of attack: incline walking/jogging, LOTS of water, LOTS of stretching.

Oh, and of course, the mental prep continues. I keep telling myself I love hiking. I’ve hiked much longer than 8 miles many times before. So what’s the difference, right? Just a little extra mud, water, obstacles… yeah, so its different… but viewing it as hiking makes it mentally much more achievable.

And for a little humor, which sadly sums it all up, I leave you this, which was posted by one of my Spartan teammates this morning:


Mountains. Mud. Obstacles and…..bears??

We shall see. For now, our mantra – #BeUnstoppable

Side note, after this weekend, I think I’ll stick to snowboarding down the ski slopes of Wintergreen.  Seems much more reasonable in hindsight.

2 thoughts on “Cleared For Take Off

    1. mndegnan says:

      Thank you so much for your note! We are certainly both skeptical and excited about the ‘experience’ that awaits. Thanks for your wonderful review. Ready or not, at least we know what we’re in for!


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